A General Process for Making Wine

A General Process for Making Wine.

  • Gathering the Fruit
  • Picking the Fruit
  • Bruising the Fruit
  • Vatting the Fruit
  • Vinous Fermentation
  • Drawing the Must
  • Pressing the Must
  • Casking the Must
  • Spirituous Fermentation
  • Racking the Wine
  • Bottling and Corking the Wine
  • Drinking the Wine


It is of considerable consequence to the making of good Wine, that attention be paid to the state and condition of fruit.  Fruit of every sort should be gathered in fine weather; those of the berry kind often appear ripe to the eye before they really are so, therefore it is requisite to taste them several times in order to ascertain that they are arrived at the crisis of maturity.  This is an important point to the making excellent wine.  If fruit be not ripe, the wine will be harsh and hard, unpleasant to the palate, and more so to the stomach; it will also require more spirit and saccharine, and take a longer time to be fit for the table if ever it be spring.  if fruit be too ripe, the wine from it will be faint, low and vapid, it will not be strong and generous, it will also require more trouble, additional spirit and expense.


That is, detaching the unripe and bad berries.  The process is certainly a little tedious, but the result when the wine is drunk, of such fruit, will in its richness and quality be most eminently superior.  Grapes also should have their stalks picked from them previous to their being placed in the vat.


A considerable advantage is gained by this operation in time and bulk. Besides, it prepares the fruit for nature’s hermetical elaboration.  The quantity of fruit for making a vintage of domestic wine, is not so large but it may be bruised in a tub, and from thence removed into the vat, or if a very small quantity it may be bruised in the vat.  While the fruit is picking by one person, another may bruise it, and as it is bruised remove it into the vat.  (When Malaga or Smyrna Raisins are used, they are to be put into the vat with water, to soak, and the following day taken out and bruised, the returned in the vat again, and the general process is to follow.)


The first thing to be done, is placing a huc-muc or guard, on the inside of the vat against the tap-hole, to prevent the husks escaping at the time the must is drawn off.  Immediately as all the fruit is in the vat the portion of water assigned should be added, then the contents stirrred up with the vat-staff and left to macerate until the next day, when the sugar, tartar, & diluted with some of the liquor, is to be put into the vat, and whole again stirred up.  The place where the vat is situated should be perfectly free from any working matter, or disagreeable smell; and temperature of not less than 58 degrees.

If a vinous fermentation do not take place, in a reasonable tie, the contents must be often stirred, and the temperature of the place made warmer.


This may be said to be a Divine operation which the Omniscient Creator has placed in our cup of life, to transmute the fruits of the Earth, into wine, for the benefit and comfort of his Creatures.

The causes that produce the effects of vinous fermentation are imperfectly known, for no chemical exploration as yet has been able to discover but a few well-ascertained facts.

The time of a vinous fermentation commencing, is always uncertain; it depends much on the quality and quantity of the contents of the vat, to its local situation, to the season or weather, and most particularly to the greenness or ripeness of the fruit.

To produce medium vinous fermentation the vats and contents ought to be placed in a temperature from 50 to 70 degrees.  And if this is found not to produce fermentation in a short time, the temperature of the place must be still made warmer and the component matters often stirred with the vat-staff.

The commencement of vinous fermentation may be pretty well known by plunging the thermometer into the middle of the contents of the vat, for a minute, and when taken out, if a fermentation has commenced the temperature of the contents will be higher than the place where the vats are situated.

Shortly after this, the vinous fermentation begins to be very conspicuous and may very easily known by its taste, smell, appearance, and effects.

The contents will first gently rise, and swell with a slight movement and a little hissing.—Some time after, a considerable motion will take place, the contents will also increase in heat, and bulk, and at this crisis a quantity of air escapes.  These effects continue a long time changing and decomposing the primordial substances.

It is the elaboration of the vinous fermentation that decomposes the saccharine, produces spirit in wine, and renders it wholesome: hence may be perceived the indispensable necessity of it.

When the vinous fermentation is about half over, the flavoring ingredients are to be put into the vat and well stirred into the contents.

If almonds form a component part, they are first to be beaten to a paste and mixed with a pint or two of the must.—Nutmegs, Cinnamon, Ginger, Seeds, etc. should, before they are put in the vat, be reduced to powder, and mixed with some of the must.

It is impossible to lay down an exact time for a vinous fermentation; but for eighteen gallons, two or three days are generally sufficient for white wines; red wines may have a day or two more.

Towards the end of the vinous fermentation, the agitation, effervescence, and discharges of air cease.  The must also in the vat will give, by tasting, a strong vinous pungency to the tongue.  This is the period (in order to have strong and generous wine) to stop the remaining slight fermentation by drawing off the must. 


Must is the name of the new wine, before it has gone though all the requisite processes and is perfected.

A cock, or spicket and faucet is to be put into the tap-hole of the vat, and the must drawn off immediately and put into open vessels, there to remain until until the pressing is finished.


As soon as all the must is drawn off from the vat, the husks(residuum) are to be put into hair-bags, the mouth of the bags is to be well fastened, then put into the press and the whole of the vintage pressed without delay.

When the pressing is all finished, the must that is pressed out is to be mixed with the must that was drawn off from the vat.

Many ways may be contrived for pressing a small vintage, for those persons who cannot afford to purchase a proper wine-press.  And any hedge-carpenter can contrive a temporary press, with two short flat boards and a long heavy pole to act as a lever.  A thing of this sort may be made to have very great power. 

Several wines, here treated of, do not require pressing; such wines may be strained through a sweet, clean, canvas bag made with a pointed and downwards sufficiently large to contain the residuum


The must may be casked in the place where the vintage is performed, or for conveniency it may taken in portions to the cellar.  Each cask is to be filled, within about an inch of the bung-hole, which should be covered over, lightly with a flat bit of wood, or some other light matter that will answer the same purpose.  This and the two last processes ought to be performed with alacrity.

The vinous fermentation is now no more and it is very conspicuosly so by the cessation, the must being perfectly cool and calm, and it will remain in this state until a spiritous fermentation. commences.


The spirituous fermentation differs from the vinous; it is essentially necessary to the clarification, the goodness, and perfection of the wine.  And it may be said to be the last natural operation in the process of the vintage.

If the vinous fermentation has been well conducted, and the wine cellar be not too cold, a spirituous fermentation will commence in a few days.  But this will only be just perceptible by a little hissing, a slight effervescence, and the bit of wood on the bung-hole will move up and down at times in consequence of the discharges of the remaining air (gas.)

This spirituous fermentation will abate in six or twelve days, the time depending on circumstances, on the quality and quantity of the WINE, the liquor being now intitled to this last appellation.  The Brandy or spirit assigned should at this time be put to the wine by pouring it in gently without disturbing the wine. No doubt need be entertained but that an association will soon take place between the spirit and the wine as effectually as if it had all been mixed together by agitation.  The cask now if not full, just be filled up and bunged hand-tight with (if possible), a wooden bung covered with a piece of new canvas much larger than the bung, in order that the bung may be at any time taken out with more facility.  In about a month after the spirit has been added, the cask will again want filling up, this should be done with (if to be had) the overplus of the vintage, if not with some other good wine.  The cask must now be bunged up tight.

After this the cask is to be pegged once a month or oftener to see if the wine be clear and not thick, and as soon as it is perceived fine and bright it is to be racked off its lees.


If the fermentations have been carried on well, it is of considerable importance to the excellence of all wines, and also to an early racking of them.

This is an operation highly requisite to the keeping wine good; to its purification, strength, color, brillianey, goût, and aroma, and it is performed by drawing off the wine and leaving the lees in the cask. A siphon should be used for this purpose, but if not, the cask must be tapped(with a cock) two or three days previously to the wine being racked off.

It may be racked off into another cask, or into a vat or tub, and returned into the same cask again, after it has been well cleaned; and, if requisite, the cask may be slightly fumigated, immediately before the wine is returned into it.  The wine is now to be tasted, and if found to be very weak, a little spirit is to be given to it, the cask filled up and bunged tight.

The process of racking ought to be performed in the temperate weather, and as soon after settles? as the wines appear any way clear, for perhaps a second racking may make them perfectly brilliant, and if so they will want no setting? this is highly advantageous to any wines, but most particular to red wines.


Many wines improperly made, or made of bad fruit, require fining before they are racked, nevertheless the operation of fining is not always necessary.  Most wines well made, do not want fining; this point must first be ascertained, by drawing off a little of the wine into a glass from the peg-hole, in front of the cask and if it be found not perfectly brilliant, it is then to be fined.

Many are the means and materials for fining distempered wines, but for those lately made, and in health, the following methods will give them exquisite limpidity.

One pound of fresh Marsh-Mallow Roots, washed clean, and cut into small pieces; macerate them in two quarts of soft water, twenty four hours, the gently boil the liquor down to three half pints, strain it, and when cold mix with it half an once of pipe-clay or chalk, in powder, then pour the mucilage into the cask, stir up the wine so as not to disturb the lees and leave  the vent-peg out for some days after.

Or boiled rice, two table spoonfuls, the whit of one new egg, and half an ounce of burnt allum, in powder.  Mix those matters up with a pint or more of the wine, then pour the mucilage into the cask and stir up the wine with a stout stick, but so as not to agitate the lees.

Or, dissolve, in a gentle heat, half an ounce of isinglass in a pint or more of the wine, then mix with it half an once of chalk, in powder; when the two are well incorporated, pour it into the cask and stir up the wine, but so as not to disturb the lees.

As soon as wines are clear and bright, after being fined down, they ought to be racked into a sweet, clean, cask, the cask filled up and bunged tight.


Fine clear weather is best for bottling all sorts of wines, and much cleanliness is required in this operation.  The first consideration, in bottling wines, is to examine and see if the wines are in a proper state for this purpose.  It is folly to attempt bottling, before the wines are fine and brilliant, as they will never brighten after.

Before this operation is commenced all the apparatus is to be in readiness.—The bottles must be all sound, clean, and dry, with plenty of good sound corks, as much depends on them; surely no one would wittingly spoil a bottle of good wine for the sake of using a bad cork.

A finger ought to introduced into the neck of each bottle, as they are corked; by this means it is ascertained what cork will best fit each of them.  The small end of the cork that enters the bottle, is first to be squeezed with, if convenient, blunt iron or wooden pincers.

The cork is to be put in with the hand, and then driven well in with the flat wooden mallet, the weight of which ought to be a pound and a quarter, but however not to exceed a pound and half, for if the mallet be too light or too heavy, it will not drive the cork properly, and is also liable to break the bottle. The corks must so completely fill up the neck of each bottle as to render them air tight, if they are not, the cork must be withdrawn and another put in.  The corker must so manage as to leave a space of an inch between the wine and the cork.

When all the wine is bottled, it is to be stored in a cool cellar, and on no account on the bottles’ bottoms, but on their sides, and saw-dust, if to be had, if not moss or hay, put copiously between them to prevent their breaking, which would of course waste the wine.


The moderns are pretty well acquainted with the delights of the bottle, or in other words with the enchanting effects of good wine, nevertherless a few remarks may be made.

Wines, whatever their color may be, ought, when drunk, to be clear and brilliant, for the same wines if not so, will not be so wholesome, nor will they have their proper fine goût.

Wines that have not age given them will not drink, by manly degrees, so potent as they would have done had that been granted.

Wines are known by their taste, brightness, color, aroma.—The requisite criterion of truly good wines are, that they possess strength, beauty, fragrance, coolness, and briskness. 

Family made wines seldom have fair play, they are mostly drunk nearly as soon as made.  How can individuals expect their wines to be good, generous, and drink well under such improper circumstances.

For the sake of information, on this subject, and shew that wines well made, of the fruits of this country will keep may years and improve thereby, I will just say a word relative to the wine I made in 1803.

To produce a wine approximating those of Madeira, or the best white wine of Minorca was my intention, and the success was equal to my expectations.

The wine was made almost neat of the fruit, only six gallons of water, twenty five pounds of saccharine, and one gallon of brandy, was employed in the product of one hundred and thirty seven gallons of wine.

As all the operations had been well performed, I determined preserving a sample of the wine, in order to ascertain how long an English-made wine, of fruits of our own country, might be kept good and generous.—The wine has been tasted this day, Easter Monday, 1814, and it is found to be strong, brilliant fragrant, and sufficiently Frisca.

From A Treatise on Family Wine Making by P.P. Carnell, ESQ. F.H.S. etc, etc. 1814


Top of Pg.